For some of us, working means putting pen to paper. And that usually means we need to have an inspired mindset for the day. As writers, we have to be fueled and ignited about the world around us.
Sometimes those days just don’t happen. It can be hard to get motivated over our morning coffee, no matter how many times we tell ourselves we’ll get everything done.
Add an indefinite lockdown and pandemic into that and suddenly, life is pretty overwhelming.
But I want to let you know today that if there was ever a time to bunker down and get those words out, it’s now. And I’ll tell you why.
Your mind needs respite as a writer
We are creatives by origin and emotionally driven by nature. Everything we say, think or spell out from somewhere deep within us. Even if we like to tell ourselves that we’re “good at just pulling stuff out of thin air”, we draw on past experiences, current and historical emotions and memories to put the puzzle together — no matter what.
So ultimately, it wouldn’t matter if your task for the day was to write about Helen the cow who thought she was a dog. No matter what you’re responsible for writing about, you will always pull that inspiration from somewhere that can relate.
You might not be Helen the cow, but you’ll pull the emotions and reliability out from being a human that can connect with this story in some form.
It’s pretty enticing to hear about a cow that can give a puppy a run for its money in the cuteness department, and that’s a story in itself. As a writer, you have to know how to play on the topic you have at hand and inspire. You have to draw people drawn in.
Because that’s what you do. You’re a storyteller.
But some days mean you’re not writing about feel-good animal stories or viral cat videos. When you’re on the clock, some of those hours are spent trying to wade through the copious, infinite amount of bad news.
That’s taxing for a writer. We have to make sense of the media; be the light when others can’t see it (even if we can’t see it ourselves). We have to be a source of information or guidance when everything else in the world is cloudy and blurred.
As a writer, you have to know how to play on the topic you have at hand and inspire. You have to draw people drawn in.
How to write your way through coronavirus
If you feel a lag in your artistic capabilities right now, you’re not alone. Almost all of us are probably feeling a lapse in creativity.
The world’s not entirely inspiring as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make its mark. But it’s our job to find that motivation somewhere out there. Especially when we need to pay the bills.
Whether you’re knuckling down to bite the bullet and write that eBook or need to smash out a few killer articles for a client — I’m going to show you how to put the panic aside and get through this tough period.
You have one job as of this moment: write your way through the unknown.
Kids around? No problem. Try to convince your partner to give you a couple of hours’ solid work locked away in your study, and if that’s not an issue, give the kids the Netflix Kids account and go to town. You only need a little bit of time. I promise.
Once you’re ready to kickstart the process, scribble down your goals for what you’d like to get done in this time. I can’t stress the importance of making sure these objectives are 100% achievable and realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
You have one job as of this moment: write your way through the unknown.
Got these down? Perfect. Grab a coffee, flip open your trusty laptop and hit the play button on Spotify. Oh, and put your phone in ‘Do Not Disturb’. (You’ll thank me later.)
1. Be ready for quick turnaround times
The world is currently running on an extremely moody 24-hour news cycle.
As a writer, you need to adapt to this, because it’s likely your clients will be looking to provide their target audience with coverage or guidance around the COVID-19 pandemic. And that means delivering your work quickly.
If you’ve got experience as a journalist, you know this kind of pace all too well. In fact, you’re immune to it; it’s just what you do.
But I find a lot of writers and bloggers these days expect too much time to get words out, spending far too much time ‘perfecting’ their work and less time getting it all done and delivered.
The good thing about the modern, digitalised world of brand journalism, copywriting and content marketing is that you don’t actually have to be 100% perfect. You do need to be on-time and preferably on the ball before the competitor is, though.
So be prepared to deliver your work faster than you’re used to. It’ll take some time to get into this kind of rhythm, but eventually, the words will come out quicker than you can type.
2. Lacking clients? Reach out to past ones
Everyone is lost right now, and chances are, your old clients and prospects need a little guidance too.
They may have thought about putting some content out there about the current situation in their industry but didn’t get enough time or energy to find a writer to do it. Or they just haven't had some proactively reach out to them in the first place.
The key here is not to spam your contacts, but politely check in on them — be it through LinkedIn or personalised email outreach — to see if you can help them out. Don’t give them a sales pitch; that’s not what they need, they need support.
3. Write every day, even if it’s for yourself
I find it hard to get up in the morning and churn out content that’s quality-driven when my mind isn’t “in it”. So I’ve made a habit out of reading some kind of non-fiction book as I eat breakfast and sip on my coffee, allowing me to tune into that creative part of my mind.
The amazing thing about non-fiction books is that they’re like endless lessons on self-empowerment, improvement, life and career. If you have an open mind, you’ve always got something to learn. And if you have something to learn, you’ve got something to write about.
Take your morning learnings and turn them into a blog post for the day. If you don’t have a publication going, get started on Medium or find set yourself up a nice WordPress blog. No matter how you do it, you need to get the words out there.
Every. Single. Day.
Why is this so important as a writer? Because consistency is key to keeping up a positive routine as a creative. The moment you let it go stale, you have to rebuild it up again, and that’s a really hard thing to do. Trust me.
If you have an open mind, you’ve always got something to learn. And if you have something to learn, you’ve got something to write about.
You will thank yourself down the track when you’ve written 50 blog posts and have enough to turn it all into a really nifty eBook. At least, that’s my goal. (Stay tuned.)
4. Be willing to get out of your comfort zone
Content topics right now aren’t too diverse. I’ve written on coronavirus so much that I’m not even sure I know how not to write about it. But that’s because it’s in demand.
It’s what people want to read about. Everyone’s scared of the unknown and it’s your job to help them fill that gap, even if you have no f*cking idea either.
So it goes without saying that if writing about pandemics, business failures, financial forecasting and political circumstances aren’t exactly in your comfort zone, then it’s time to make them all apart of it.
Get cosy, because if you really want to land more clients right now and make money as a writer during the coronavirus pandemic, then you need to tailor your niche towards it.
For example, I’ve written about several topics coming out of this theme lately: from fear and social distancing through to inspiring kids who can no longer go to school because of quarantine. The topics are endless, you just need to get creative.
But just in case you’re not so great at sparking that motivation, here are a few other tricks to help you find something in this niche.
Open up Google Trends in your browse and have a look at what people are searching for (either in your specific country or internationally, depending on your target audience). Right now, Google Trends even has a section solely dedicated to this topic, as you can see in the screenshot above.
Sign up to Quora and start following all of the topics you usually write about, and also the ones that are timely at the moment.
Keep an eye out for questions that people are posting and that aren’t getting solid enough answers. There’s a number of follows indicated for each of them, so you can determine what ones are worth answering. The more followers the question gets, the better it will act as a content topic for your blog piece.
Hint: After you’ve written the piece, you can head back to the original question on Quora and answer it, nicely embedded the link to your article in it.
Bonus tip: If you want to see a mastermind in action for this tactic. I suggest you follow Neil Patel on Quora and explore how he uses it to market his content.
5. Solidify your pitches
I can’t tell you how many writers underestimate the importance of pitching stories in the modern age. Just because everyone can technically publish content, doesn’t mean they should. That’s why editorial processes are still in place.
If you have an absolutely to-die-for story idea in mind that you do want to spend more time than usual on, and you’re sure it will pay off, then put in the hard yards.
By all means, don’t listen to me when it comes to getting more done quicker. If you have a piece that’s really going to pack a punch and be a return on investment, then believe in yourself.
But make sure you also prepare. Create enticing pitches that editors won’t be able to turn down.
Understand your niche and why you have a different story worth telling. Please, just please, don’t be another voice on a topic that’s already a bunch of notice. You need to stand out here.
Here are a few guides on how to do that:
Phwoah. That was a lot to get out.
See how I managed to pull 48237498274 words out of my mind after reading some awesome Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson this morning?
If you paid enough attention, you will have noticed I also did all of the above tactics to create this piece. Albeit, pitching — because that’s for me to know and you to find out.
But in a nutshell, I;
- sat down to write something substantial. I put my Red Heeler outside (no kids) and told her I’m going to be busy changing lives for an hour or two. Far-fetched, but give me a break.
- found a timely topic in a theme that’s constantly appearing across social media and news publications right now. I tailored it to this particular audience (you: the writer or content creator) so that there’s a particular niche involved.
- created an article that is filled with value and substance (I believe) and my own unique experiences.
- added in helpful resources and links to guide the reader through to doing the same on their end.
- drank copious amounts of coffee to do all this.
Remember that you are a writer because you possess the ability to deliver words that matter to those around you. Use this to your advantage. Be louder than the other crap in this world.